Feathered friends of many varieties adorn this charming volume that evokes bygone times of unfettered outdoor play and...

THE KING OF THE BIRDS

Readers with a taste for the quirky will flock to this tale inspired by Flannery O’Connor’s love of peafowl.

In rural Georgia, little Flannery trains her chicken to walk backward, earning the duo a few moments in the spotlight and awakening in the child a taste for more excitement. An ever expanding assortment of feathered friends ensues, each individual bird delightfully expressive thanks to Nelson’s masterful collage illustrations in muted retro tones. A mail-order peacock is the seemingly inevitable crowning addition to this collection, but his coy reluctance to display his tail feathers demands creative problem-solving on the part of his young mistress. Books for young people about famous individuals whose work they cannot yet appreciate sometimes fall flat; in this case, the unexpected antics of birds and child sustain interest whether O’Connor’s name is familiar to readers or not. However, the book would have benefitted from more detailed biographical and source information than the brief concluding note (for example, no mention is made of O’Connor’s essay “King of the Birds,” which details her avian adventures).

Feathered friends of many varieties adorn this charming volume that evokes bygone times of unfettered outdoor play and highlights a little-known episode in the life of a remarkable woman, but the peacock truly rules the roost. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-55498-851-8

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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Hee haw.

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THE WONKY DONKEY

The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

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Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle...

THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING

Making things is difficult work. Readers will recognize the stages of this young heroine’s experience as she struggles to realize her vision.

First comes anticipation. The artist/engineer is spotted jauntily pulling a wagonload of junkyard treasures. Accompanied by her trusty canine companion, she begins drawing plans and building an assemblage. The narration has a breezy tone: “[S]he makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” The colorful caricatures and creations contrast with the digital black outlines on a white background that depict an urban neighborhood. Intermittent blue-gray panels break up the white expanses on selected pages showing sequential actions. When the first piece doesn’t turn out as desired, the protagonist tries again, hoping to achieve magnificence. A model of persistence, she tries many adjustments; the vocabulary alone offers constructive behaviors: she “tinkers,” “wrenches,” “fiddles,” “examines,” “stares” and “tweaks.” Such hard work, however, combines with disappointing results, eventually leading to frustration, anger and injury. Explosive emotions are followed by defeat, portrayed with a small font and scaled-down figures. When the dog, whose expressions have humorously mirrored his owner’s through each phase, retrieves his leash, the resulting stroll serves them well. A fresh perspective brings renewed enthusiasm and—spoiler alert—a most magnificent scooter sidecar for a loyal assistant.

Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle characterization for maximum delight. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55453-704-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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